International Journal of Tantric Studies

New Titles

Studi Orientali e Linguistici. V (1994-95)

By Giorgio Renato Franci (ed.)

Istituto di Glottologia dell'Università di Bologna

Nuova Serie V, 1996. Pp. 422, IL 50.000

Review by Enrica Garzilli, November 1st, 1996

This is a volume edited by Professor Giorgio Renato Franci, one of the most distinguished Italian scholars who teaches in Bologna, the oldest university of the world. The book is a miscellaneous collection of 15 essays (Saggi), 8 notes, discussions, surveys (Note, discussioni, rassegne), several Reviews (Recensioni), and 3 chronicles and reports (Cronaca).

In his short preface Franci explains that the publication of the volumes of the Linguistics Institute of Bologna had to be interrupted for some time. As he points out, this was also due to the complete -- and desirable -- academic freedom of the contributors. They published what they wanted to, and when they liked to do so. Also the format of the papers has been entirely chosen by contributors. The editor, who is also the Director of the Institute, has previleged the high quality of contents rather than a quick and fashionable production. This freedom largely compensates the fact that some review is slightly outdated.

The volume is totally dedicated to Asian Studies. The academic freedom we mentioned above reflects in the excellent quality of papers. Some of them has been written by well-known scholars: just to give some example, G. R. Franci on gipsy literature, on anubhava in Zankara, on contemporary Bengali handbooks, etc.; G. Pettinato on Gilgamesh; L. Piretti on sati in a traditional dharma text; A. Passi on women's Sanskrit poetry and, together with C. Pieruccini, on an early 17th Century Gujarati bronze. Some paper has also been written by young scholars (unusual event in Italy where it is so difficult to get published even for well-known scholars!); the majority of papers has been written by Professors of the Linguistics Institute; other papers have been written by outside scholars. The freedom also reflects in the Index where authors' names have not been alphabetically arranged.

Among the various contributions on the most assorted topics (in Avestan, Babylonian, Bengali, Chinese, Indological, Indonesian, Iranian, Japanese, Jewish, Sanskrit, Somali, Near Eastern, and Turkmenian studies) I want to mention the paper Catalogo e programma di indoecologia by Giorgio Renato Franci. He lists it under Note, discussioni, rassegne, pp. 337-343. As the title indicates, Franci offers an overview of the recent handbooks on "indoecology" namely indology applied to ecology. His explicit intention is to give a catalog, a program to study. This paper is important not only for its undoubtable scientific value; it is important for the modernity and the importance of the topic in India and all over the world; it is also important because, as far as I know, indoecology is completely neglected in Italy. This paper gives the scholarly, personal, and humanistic dimension of the editor of the volume Studi Orientali e Linguistici. V. (1994-95)

Another neglected topic is women's Sanskrit poetry. This has been studied by Alessandro Passi in his paper Poesia femminile in sanscrito: GaurI (under Note, discussioni, rassegne, pp. 299-306). Passi is a scholar well known for his elegant Italian translations of Sanskrit poetry and literature, as well as for his Italian translations of English literature. In the few verses translated in Poesia femminile... he offers us a morsel of the sophisticated quality that only poets have: his ability in translating poetry.

At the end of the volume is printed the Index of the previous volumes of the Linguistics Institute of the University of Bologna.

Due the general brevity of papers and their variety, the volume can be read by specialists as well by well educated "general" readers. Last but not least, I want to point out the low price of this well-edited volume -- especially if we compare it with other current Italian publications in the field.

Autumn Leaves: Kashmiri Reminiscences

By Ram Nath Kak

New Delhi, Vitasta, 1995. Pp. XII + 126, Rs. 90

Review by Enrica Garzilli, November 1st, 1996

This book is a very honest one. It does not claim to be a scholarly book but it presents the intimate life of a Kashmiri man, Ram Nath Kak in the Kashmir post-independence era. The scholar Subash Kak has edited his father's notes and letters and published this book. As he writes in his Preface, in Kashmir Autumn leaves are used to make embers for kangris, the braziers with wickwork used under a blanket. The editor writes that These are the Autumn leaves from one Kashmiri life. Ram Nath Kak draws portraits and events of everyday life. Like leaves, these notes do carry impressions of many storms, lightning and the balmy warmth of the sun.

The book has four chapters: I Growing up; II Householder; III More Travels; IV Reflections. The Glossary at the end helps to understand the Kashmiri terminology.

With the description of the war with Pakistan, meetings with mystics and so on, the book is not only a pleasant reading: it can also help in understanding the rise of the recent insurgency there.

Above all, this book presents perspectives on a land and a society which for millennia have been the cradle of great and different religious as well profane cultures and movements.


By Swami Satyananda Saraswati (tr.)

Napa/California, Devi Mandir Publications, 1985 (I ed.) and
Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 1985 (I ed.). Pp. 425, US$. 15

Review by Enrica Garzilli, November 1st, 1996

It is already obvious from the title: ChaNDI PATh: She Who Tears Apart Thought; also known as the DurgA SaptaZatI: the Seven Hundred Verses In Praise of She Who Removes All Difficulties; and the DevI MAhAtmyam: the Glory of the Goddess is a religious volume which has been written by a devotee for devotees. The translator writes in his Introduction (pp. 5-6):

The DurgA SaptaZatI, or ChaNDI PAThaH, is Pauranic, comprising the thirteen chapters of MArkaNDeya PurANa from number eighty-one to ninety-three. Hence it dates between 900 to 500 B.C. However, as the first writing in India was not widely used until the Third Century B.C., it is precarious to proclaim any accuracy. It mostly assumed its present from during the Fourth Century A.D. under the patronage of the Gupta Kings, when scholars collected, edited and recorded the oral traditions of prose and poetry prevalent among the many peoples of the Empire. Certainly its root is Vaidika. The entire ChaNDI PAThaH purports to be a commentary on the 2 Rg vaidika hymns included at its beginning and end... Again it is a basic authority of the Tantras. It gives a definition to method and practice of the oral tradition which can only be learned from a qualified Guru... This is an intellectual interpretation of the ChaNDI. But to realize the real ChaNDI, one must strive to make the Goddess the sum and the substance of his entire life. This may be accomplished by sitting in an Asana and pronouncing the mantras of this work, and by striving to make the Asana and the recitation longer. Do not worry about not understanding. Do not worry about anything. ... Thus the DurgA SaptaSatI is a practical Training Manual. ...

The verses are written in devanagari and transliterated into Roman letters. The division of words in Roman letters from the Sanskrit sandhi is sometimes wrong (e.g. rSi ruvAca p. 152 et passim). The translation is not always literal but accompanied by additions and/or religious interpretations.